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Cruising on the Mekong River, Cambodia

Cruising in Southeast Asia

Cruising on the Mekong River, Cambodia

Journeys on seas where limestone outcrops pierce the water, across great lakes home to floating communities, or along peaceful rivers taking in some of the region’s most recognizable towns and cities.

Cruising in Southeast Asia offers the chance to see little-visited pockets, often inaccessible by land, as you meander along the region’s waterways at a relaxed pace. There is a variety of experiences on offer, from cruising the remote waters in deepest Burma to taking in the scenery of Halong Bay in Vietnam aboard a junk. Many of the boats resemble opulent hotels, while others are simpler, but all provide unrivaled access to sites and communities well off the beaten track.

Cruising in Thailand

The Bridge on the River Kwai
The Bridge over the River Kwai

By Audley Thailand specialist Shannon

Cruises in Thailand slot easily into a more extensive tour of the country. While you’re amidst the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, I recommend spending a few days on the Chao Phraya River. Otherwise known as the ‘River of Kings’, the Chao Phraya is at parts a calm conduit bordered by temples and at other areas a tempest of energy with long-tail boats and cargo vessels punctuating its waterways.

The boat journey I enjoyed most on the river took me from Bangkok through to Ayutthaya and back again aboard the Loy Dream, a converted rice barge. A luxury vessel, the barge is bedecked with mahogany wood panelling, Thai silk furniture, and arabesque works of Southeast Asian art.

I particularly loved spending the morning moored alongside — and then exploring — the Wat Arun temple, which is constructed of vividly decorated iridescent porcelain. This, plus having the chance to see life along the river, makes cruising a rewarding — and relaxing — addition to your travels in Thailand.

Cruising in Indonesia

Komodo archipelago, Indonesia
Komodo Archipelago in Indonesia

By Audley Indonesia specialist Jess

In a country of some 17,000 islands, sea cruising is a wonderful option for getting about, particularly if you want a far-flung experience. In Komodo National Park, Komodo dragon sightings are almost guaranteed. There are also cruise options around the remote Raja Ampat islands.

A river cruise into Tanjung Puting National Park in the southwest of Kalimantan Island holds an altogether different allure. Orangutans nest in trees above the riverbanks, and you can spend a few days aboard a traditional klotok — a converted wooden vessel — in search of these gentle creatures. You’ll visit Camp Leakey, a long-established station for orangutan research and rehabilitation, where you can witness large groups of primates (I saw gatherings of between 15 and 20) at numerous feeding stations.

Cruising in Vietnam

Cruising in Halong Bay, Vietnam
Halong Bay cruise

Cruising in Laos

Mekong near Pakbeng
Mekong River cruise

By Laos specialist Dan

Laos is ideal for anyone who loves adventurous cruises. The remote section of the Mekong from the Thai border to Luang Prabang is wild and fast-flowing. Here, the river dissects jungle-covered mountains, sheer cliff faces abut the water, and traditional long tail boats provide the only means to access small hill tribe communities. To add to the adventure, you can stay overnight onshore in a hillside lodge overlooking the river.

For a more laid-back trip, you can journey the Si Phan Don archipelago, or 4,000 Islands, in Southern Laos, where the Mekong swells to its widest. On this option, you spend three days on board a converted teak barge, criss-crossing between the islands, waterfalls, pre-Angkorian Wat Phou temples, and the market town of Pakse.

Cruising across multiple countries

Ta Prohm, Siem Reap
The temple of Ta Prohm in Siem Reap, Cambodia

By Southeast Asia specialist Will

The Mekong River carves its way through five Southeast Asian nations: Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. A lifeblood for many who have built their lives on the rich soil of its banks, it acts as a major trading route, food source, and means of transport — making a cruise crossing multiple of these countries an ideal way to see the diverse landscapes and cultures of the area.

One of the more popular cruising options along the Mekong carries you between Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Siem Reap in Cambodia. Along the way you’ll visit sites such as the temples of Angkor and, at certain times of year when the water levels are high enough, Tonle Sap, the region’s largest freshwater lake and home to Cambodia's floating villages.

Start planning your cruise in Southeast Asia

Start thinking about your experience. These itineraries are simply suggestions for how you could enjoy some of the same experiences as our specialists. They’re just for inspiration, because your trip will be created around your particular tastes.

View All Tours in Southeast Asia